The Leibniz-IZW is an internationally renowned German research institute. It is part of the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. and a member of the Leibniz Association. Our goal is to understand the adaptability of wildlife in the context of global change and to contribute to the enhancement of the survival of viable wildlife populations. For this purpose, we investigate the diversity of life histories, the mechanisms of evolutionary adaptations and their limits, including diseases, as well as the interrelations of wildlife with their environment and people. We use expertise from biology and veterinary medicine in an interdisciplinary approach to conduct fundamental and applied research – from the molecular to the landscape level – in close dialogue with the public and stakeholders. Additionally, we are committed to unique and high-quality services for the scientific community.

+++ Current information on African swine fever: The Leibniz-IZW conducts research on the population dynamics, on models of disease outbreaks in wild boars and on the ecology and human-wildlife interaction in urban areas. African swine fever is a reportable disease in domestic swine and therefor is the purview of the respective federal state laboratories and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (Federal Research Institute for Animal Health) FLI. +++

News

Hedgehog with cut injuries (photo: Editha Schneider)
Hedgehog with cut injuries (photo: Editha Schneider)

New research into hedgehogs injured by robotic lawn mowers discovers a significant but solvable animal welfare and conservation problem

Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) analysed 370 documented cases of hedgehogs being injured (cut) by electric gardening tools in Germany. Almost half of the hedgehogs found between June 2022 and September 2023 did not survive the injuries. The data reveal a serious animal welfare and conservation issue for these specially protected animals, as most hedgehogs were only found hours or even days after the accidents. In two further studies, an international team of scientists analysed how hedgehogs behaviourally respond to an approaching robotic lawn mower. The observed behavioural responses were used to develop a scientifically sound, standardised safety test to protect hedgehogs for robotic devices. The three scientific papers are published in the special issue “Applied Hedgehog Conservation Research” of the scientific journal “Animals”.

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Koala (photo: Norbert Potensky)
Koala (photo: Norbert Potensky)

Helping koalas to survive: world's largest koala pedigree genomic database aims to protect the population of the endangered species

An international research consortium with the participation of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) is building the world's largest koala pedigree genomic database. This will help to improve the understanding and prevention of diseases, protect endangered koala populations, and thus ensure that koalas prosper everywhere in the long run. Among key challenges for these animals is the koala retrovirus (KoRV), which increases their susceptibility to bacterial infections, leukaemia and other types of cancer. All koalas in zoological gardens in North America and Europe as well as almost all free-ranging koalas in Australia carry this virus.

 

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Greater mouse-eared bat (photo: Karin Schneeberger)
Greater mouse-eared bat (photo: Karin Schneeberger)

Conflict in full swing: Forest bats avoid large areas around fast-moving wind turbines

Not only do many bats die at wind turbines, the turbines also displace some species from their habitats over large areas. When the turbines are in operation at relatively high wind speeds, the activity of bat species that hunt in structurally dense habitats such as forests drops by almost 80 per cent within a radius of 80 to 450 metres around the turbine. This is the result of a scientific investigation led by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Philipps-Universität Marburg, which is published in the journal “Global Ecology and Conservation". The team suggests that one of the causes of this avoidance behaviour is the noise emission of the turbine rotors, which increases with increasing wind speed.

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Common noctule (photo: Carolin Scholz)
Common noctule (photo: Carolin Scholz)

Much effort, little prey: poor foraging success drives bats away from cities

While some wildlife species thrive well in cities, it's harder for large, insectivorous bat species to find enough food: To get their fill, city-dwelling common noctules (Nyctalus noctula) have to hunt longer than their rural counterparts and yet they catch fewer insects. While rural bats hunt together, their urban counterparts regularly forage alone. These findings, published in the scientific journal “Global Change Biology”, are the results of a new scientific investigation led by PD Dr Christian Voigt and Dr Laura Stidsholt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW).

 

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Common pipistrelle - Pipistrellus nathusii (photo: Christian Giese)
Common pipistrelle - Pipistrellus nathusii (photo: Christian Giese)

Many paths lead to wintering sites: bat seasonal migration is more complex than previously assumed

In late summer, some bat species migrate from northern Europe along the coastlines to their wintering sites in central and western Europe. Until now it was assumed that all bats travelled in the same direction during the migration. However, the reality is more complex: On the Latvian Baltic coast, a research team led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) reconstructed the flight paths of Nathusius’ pipistrelle bats using ultrasound microphones. Most animals flew southwards in late summer, but on some days 20 percent travelled in the opposite direction – presumably owing to weather conditions. More and more wind turbines are being set up along the coasts and on the high seas of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. As bats spend more time along the coastlines than expected, partially deviate onto the high seas and even fly detours, the wind turbines pose a more (deadly) danger to bats than previously recognised, the team concludes in an article in the journal “Global Ecology and Conservation”.

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Illustration of the penis of the common serotine bat (illustration by Taisiia Kravchenko)
Illustration of the penis of the common serotine bat (illustration by Taisiia Kravchenko)

Bat's secrets: A novel mating pattern in mammals discovered

Reproductive behaviour in the animal kingdom is extremely diverse. Until now, it was believed that the copulatory behaviours of mammals always involve penetration of the female genital tract by the penis. A scientific investigation led by the University of Lausanne and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), which was recently published in the journal “Current Biology”, reveals an exception in bats, a group of mammals whose sexual behaviour is still poorly understood. The common serotine bat mates without intromission of the penis into the female genital tract.

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Sturgeon at fish market in Eastern Europe (photo: George Caracas/WWF)
Sturgeon at fish market in Eastern Europe (photo: George Caracas/WWF)

Half of tested sturgeon products such as caviar from Europe are illegal, and some don’t even contain any trace of sturgeon

Wild caviar, a pricey delicacy made from sturgeon eggs, has been illegal for decades since poaching brought the fish to the brink of extinction. Today, legal, internationally tradeable caviar can only come from farmed sturgeon, and there are strict regulations in place to help protect the species. However, by conducting genetic and isotope analyses on caviar samples from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine—nations bordering the remaining wild sturgeon populations—a team of sturgeon experts found evidence that these regulations are actively being broken. Their results, published today in the journal “Current Biology”, show that half of the commercial caviar products they sampled are illegal, and some don’t even contain any trace of sturgeon.

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Grey wolf (Canis lupus) in its preferred habitat (photo: Jan Zwilling/Leibniz-IZW)
Grey wolf (Canis lupus) in its preferred habitat (photo: Jan Zwilling/Leibniz-IZW)

“Wolves like cherry-picking”: Modelling shows how they recolonised Germany and where they could live in the future

The return of the grey wolf (Canis lupus) to Germany, which began 23 years ago in the region of Lusatia in Eastern Germany, is a process of great ecological and social significance. Therefore, a precise understanding of the recolonisation of the original habitat by the grey wolf and a reliable prediction of its future potential distribution are highly valuable. A detailed comparison of different approaches to spatial modelling using 20 years of distribution data now unravelled the complexity of the recolonisation process. A team led by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) shows in a paper in the scientific journal “Diversity and Distributions” that grey wolf habitat selection changed from the early (when they cherry-pick the finest locations) to late phases of recolonisation (when they are much less selective) in a particular area. These results are a refinement of the team’s earlier habitat modelling from 2020, originally published by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.

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